Brunei Beauties: A Tale of Sex And Silliness In Philippine PoliticsROBERT H. REID , Associated Press
Aug. 16, 1993 3:46 PM ET
MANILA, PHILIPPINES MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ It was a tale of sex and titillation: the country's most beautiful stars, lured by big money into prostitution in Brunei. Now, the senator who raised the charge is himself accused of involvement.
Last week, Sen. Ernesto Maceda, the self-styled ''Mr. Expose'' of Philippine politics, demanded an investigation of the ''Brunei Beauties'' - actresses, singers and models who travel to the sultanate allegedly at the behest of oil-rich playboys.
''We have reports that over a dozen beauty queens, several dozen aspiring actresses and even hostesses have gone to Brunei with glowing reports of instant wealth,'' Maceda claimed.
He cited reports in Philippine movie magazines and gossip-rich tabloids, publications not renowned for their accuracy, that the women earned up to $750,000 for a month's stint.
For years, critics have complained that the Philippine Congress gets bogged down in trivial investigations when it should be concerned with the country's manifold problems of poverty, social injustice and a sluggish economy.
But politics is often treated as public soap opera in the Philippines, and unsubstantiated allegations involving the rich and prominent fill the columns of even the most respectable Manila newspapers.
''In the interest of Filipino womanhood, it becomes necessary that these persistent reports be investigated by the Senate,'' Maceda harrumphed during a speech on Senate floor.
What Maceda apparently did not count on was the sharp reaction of the starlets - or their parents.
One of the women, model Leah Orosa, denied having ever been to Brunei. Annabelle Rama accused the senator himself of trying to recruit her 19-year- old singer-daughter, Ruffa Gutierrez, to perform in Brunei.
Ms. Rama said she was offered $19,000 to sing two songs. But she refused the offer when she learned her daughter could not take along a chaperone.
''Why is Maceda so outraged?'' Ms. Rama asked in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer. ''Is it because he would lose his commissions from those women he wanted to present as gifts to his bosses in Brunei?''
Maceda called the countercharge ''preposterous.'' His staff quickly claimed the senator raised the issue of the ''Brunei Beauties'' to establish whether the rumors were true.
A second-term senator, Maceda was reelected in May 1992 on the slogan ''Mr. Expose'' because of his penchant for alleging public wrongdoing in high places.